My family bought a new(ish) car towards the end of the summer, the first that any of us have owned with a flat-panel display integrated into the dashboard. You navigate through its offerings via some chunky buttons surrounding it; it rather reminds me of using an early iPod. One day while fiddling through its menus, I discovered a “Software licenses” option — which does nothing except display the text of the good old GNU Public License in its entirety. You can use the radio-tuner knob to scroll through it at your leisure, once you call it up.

The car didn’t make clear what among its myriad software components fell under the GPL, but clearly something did. I felt equal parts amused and impressed that our friends at Volkswagen had gone through the trouble to follow the license’s directions and post the thing prominently enough that I’d stumble across it while the very machine hosting the file carried us up interstate 95. (Don’t worry, my wife was driving.) Furthermore, it wasn’t the first place I’d unexpectedly run into open-source license text lately; earlier in the summer, I found myself reading the MIT license on my TV screen, attached to some tool or library running deep under the hood of my Sony Playstation.

These discoveries brought to mind how I had called a little more attention to IFTF’s GitHub repositories a few months ago, and made me think that the IFComp codebase hadn’t done a very good job of acknowledging all the open-source projects that it folds into itself. Fine and good for IFTF to boast of its own FOSS bonafides, but it suddenly struck me as a poor showing that various international corporations did a better job than our scrappy little nonprofit of offering proper by-the-book credit to the free software we use.

So I set about to fix that, and with the help of our legal counsel I this month published a new and stupendously wordy document to IFComp’s code repository. Most of the words belong to the licenses themselves, lovingly hand-pasted into place, but the top of the document lists the different open-source projects that IFComp incorporates.

As it happens, IFComp uses all these projects in order to support the in-browser play of Inform-based IF games. Stephen Granade and Dan Shiovitz first rolled these features into the comp software some years ago, making the play of IFComp games suddenly much more accessible than before. I, as IFComp’s current lead organizer, have worked to maintain this very important feature, and I have the following people and projects to thank:

  • Quixe by Andrew Plotkin, via the MIT License

  • IF Recorder by Juhana Leinonen, via the MIT License

  • Parchment by Atul Varma and maintained by Dannii Willis, via the Modified BSD License. It in turn uses Gnusto, originally by Thomas Thurman, via the GNU Public License.

I would point out that none of the above software was, to the best of my knowledge, created expressly for IFComp. Rather, these are independent projects by members of the interactive fiction community, and their public release inspired IFComp’s technical team to make creative use of them towards the competition’s own betterment. All this serves as a fine example of why we love open-source software at IFTF, and why we will always continue a commitment towards openness in all the software that we as an organization produce and maintain.

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